Church Ladies

My childhood religion was faith-based. Church twice a week. Daily Bible study. A loving God.

Disease was denied. No medicine, hospitals, doctors. Alcohol and drugs were forbidden.

My world changed when my parents divorced.

Trading the blind faith of religion for first-hand life experiences with various substances was absolute freedom. I didn’t doubt God’s existence; I just forgot Him.

After a quarter-century, the experiment failed. Plunged into the darkness of addiction, I sought God again.

Something bigger than me has kept me sober for two decades. And until recently, my resentment toward religion had evaporated into the ether.

Respecting my mother’s denial of Alzheimer’s isn’t easy. She may forget people, or that she’s moved across country, but she hasn’t forgotten God.

The Universe has a sick sense of humor. We’re now attending her new church together and her joy slowly outweighs my antipathy.

Stranger Things

My mother was once a social butterfly: artist, writer, a celebrity in her community. Her days were filled with book signings and art exhibits. Then Alzheimer’s, the uninvited guest, snuck in through her mind’s door. Suddenly, she didn’t want to socialize, attend church, go to lunch. Acting as if she were her old self summoned every drop of strength, replacing courage with doubt.

She was a stranger in her own life.

It got worse when she moved to the city where I’ve lived for twenty-five years. This world is filled with stranger things: the care home’s multiethnic staff. Cacti gardens. Javelina.

Like the gradual metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, her old self is emerging. She’s found a group of ladies to lunch and take walks with. She’s more confident. Engaged.

The actress fades away. Strangers become friends. Today, we’re okay.

Learn more about the vital role of socializing in dementia


Back Off

“We suggest you back off for two weeks,” the Memory Care Director advised, when I dropped my mom at her new apartment. “She needs time to settle into her new routine.”

It’s been a week since I’ve seen her. I get daily updates. Meet with the staff frequently. Their reassurance that she’s doing well and has new friends helps.

But I waver between freedom and fear. It’s the closest I’ve been to regaining my life, the furthest from the mother-daughter bond that encircles us like the flourishing vines of bougainvillea in my backyard.

“She keeps talking about the bank owning the house,” said yesterday’s text from the Memory Care director. “I told her not to worry. She thinks that since I’m the attorney, I’ll make sure everything is taken care of.”

I may be distant, but the worries aren’t.